“You are the Secretary of My Mercy; I have chosen you for this office, in this life and in the next”
– the Merciful Lord speaking to Saint Faustina, as recorded in her Diary, para.1605
Throughout the history of the Church, the Lord in His mercy has given us many great Saints – each one offering precisely what is needed at a particular moment of human history. Very often, what those Saints proclaimed was at direct odds with the times they were living in, and so their example shines like a beacon in the darkness of a given age.
Sometimes, those Saints were very visible in their time – such as two recent great Saints, Pope John Paul and Mother Teresa. And sometimes, they lived in obscurity, their message and example only seeing the light of day later – such as the young Carmelite Thérèse of Lisieux or Catherine Labouré. For many, their sanctity remained hidden at the time of their own lives, becoming known later often through the writings they left behind. As a result, we now have a number of profound spiritual works, some of which are widely regarded as true classics of the spiritual life. ‘The Story Of A Soul’ (St Thérèse) is such a work, as is ‘True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin’ (St Louis Marie de Montfort). Works such as these transform a great many lives, leading the sinful to return to the Lord, the good to excel in virtue, and shining a clear and bright light on the way of holiness for all.
In the first half of the Twentieth Century, St Faustina Kowalska lived a very humble and hidden life in Lithuania and Poland. Outwardly, there was nothing to suggest anything out of the ordinary. Inwardly, however, she was living in very close union with God and rapidly ascending the heights of true sanctity. The Lord had also chosen her for a very important and singular mission – to remind the Church and the world of the reality of Divine Mercy, and of our great need of it in the present day. For this message of mercy to be accurately passed on, the Lord commanded Faustina to be entirely obedient to her confessor, Father Sopockó, who was beatified by Pope Benedict in 2009. Having determined that she was both sane and authentic, Father Sopockó commanded her to record her experiences in writing – and as a result of this command, we now have ‘Divine Mercy In My Soul’, the Diary of Saint Faustina. Much later, in a written account of his recollections of the young nun, now long dead, he wrote –
“On getting to know Sr. Faustina better I concluded that the Gifts of Holy Spirit worked in her in a concealed state, but quite often they appeared more openly, partly overwhelming her soul in a lively manner, arousing surges of love, solemn heroic acts of sacrifice and self-denial. Particularly frequently, I could see the work of the Gifts of Understanding, Knowledge and Wisdom thanks to which Sr. Faustina clearly saw the nothingness of worldly things, and the importance of suffering and humiliations. In a simple way she got to know the attributes of God, and most of all His Infinite Mercy.”
The Diary records the numerous extraordinary experiences granted to Faustina – the appearances of the Lord as He is in the Divine Mercy Image (a vision repeated many times so that Faustina was able to perfectly and accurately describe what she had seen), the Child Jesus at Mass and in the convent chapel, the Mother of God, and Angels. These are experiences granted to only a few rare souls and so reading them is indeed extraordinary. But more than this, the Diary clearly records Faustina’s ascent to the heights of real sanctity; this is a path every single one of us is called to walk, and so this gives all of us some very powerful hints and tips on how to achieve this in the midst of everyday life. Amongst it all are many beautiful prayers which clearly speak of Faustina’s personal sense of spirituality.
Speaking of St Faustina and her message of mercy in a homily given on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001, Pope John Paul II said this –
“The elevation to the honors of the altar of this humble religious, a daughter of my land, is not only a gift for Poland, but for all of humanity. Indeed, the message she brought is the appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of our age, marked by terrible tragedies …. Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium.”
Because of the extraordinary quality of this Diary, there is presently a move to have St Faustina declared a ‘Doctor of the Church’. This title has been given so far only to 36 Saints in the entire history of the Church, and only three of these were women. It means that a Saint possessed extraordinary holiness and their writings offer a significant contribution to the universal Church and it’s authentic teaching. Their writings must show deep theological appreciation and must give the faithful a fresh and approachable insight into the mysteries of the Catholic faith. Several priests and theologians who are intimately acquainted with the work and writings of St Faustina wrote a lengthy letter to the Holy Father which outlined their request that Faustina be declared a Doctor of the Church, and giving their clear reasons for the request. This was the conclusion of that letter –
“Clearly, the life and witness of St. Faustina, and the message of Divine Mercy that God gave to the Church and the world through her, was vital to God’s outreach to His People amid the terrible sufferings of the 20th century. It is vitally important as well in our own era, especially to the New Evangelization, and will remain so in the future as part of the preparation of the Church and the world for the final coming of the Lord. If so, then we strongly believe that all this completes the case for declaring St. Faustina a true Doctor of the Church, according to the criteria established by the magisterium. Moreover, we believe that elevating her in the eyes of the Body of Christ with this title during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy would light a beacon of hope for the world. It would powerfully proclaim the message of Divine Mercy to the struggling People of God, and to lost and broken humanity, drawing the attention of all to the only true remedy: trust in God’s infinite and merciful love.”
In late 2011, this appeal was renewed when the Bishops and Cardinals gathered in Poland at the World Conference of Divine Mercy wrote to Pope Benedict requesting that St Faustina be declared a Doctor of the Church. Amongst the signatories was Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, former personal secretary to Pope John Paul for 27 years. Most recently, in 2015, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who are the official promoters of the message of Divine Mercy, revisited this appeal and began a petition for the faithful to sign and so add their support.
What is certain is that if it is God’s will that St Faustina be declared a Doctor, then it will happen – and this will be when the Lord desires it. Until then, we have this extraordinary Diary as a roadmap of the way of holiness, and we have the intercession of this very holy and powerful Saint in Heaven.